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Friday, December 28, 2012

Our friends, the Saudis?

Is Saudi Arabia becoming Israel's best friend in the region?
But Saudi-funded papers have been doing something that may be far more important than another handshake on the White House lawn: providing a platform for Arab journalists and public figures to challenge the dominant Middle Eastern narrative of Israel as the root of all evil.
Consider, for instance, a column published last month in Asharq Al-Awsat, a paper owned by a member of the Saudi royal family and known for its support of the Saudi monarchy. Written by the paper's then-deputy editor-in-chief, Adel Al Toraifi, and titled "Who holds Hamas' terrorism to account?" the column blamed not Israel, but Hamas, for Palestinian casualties during both the second intifada and the recent fighting in Gaza.
During the intifada, wrote Al Toraifi, "Only a small number of Palestinians died in the first weeks." But then, "Hamas and other factions decided to militarize the intifada through the use of suicide attacks, costing the Palestinians nearly 2,000 lives in less than two years."
Similarly, when smaller factions began "sabotaging the truce in Gaza," Hamas "did not condemn their attacks, rather its leaders talked about the victory that was achieved through the missile fire." Consequently, "a hundred Palestinians have died and what remains of the dilapidated infrastructure there has been destroyed."
Now contrast this with the reaction of Israel's "peace partner," Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. In his speech to the UN last month, Abbas accused Israel of committing "barbaric and horrific" crimes in Gaza in retaliation for ... his UN bid! The thousands of missiles launched at Israel weren't even mentioned, much less condemned. And other senior PA officials openly praised the missile fire. Moreover, the two Arab states with which Israel has peace treaties, Egypt and Jordan, similarly accused Israel of unprovoked aggression while refusing to condemn the rocket fire.
In short, all told their people that Israel is simply an evil country that kills innocent Arabs for no good reason. And why would anyone make peace with a country like that?
Al Toraifi, in contrast, told his readers that Israel isn't inherently evil; it was just responding to being attacked. He also told his readers that Palestinians aren't wholly innocent; their behavior, too, will have to change for peace to be possible. These are obviously messages far more conducive to peace.
Yes, even the Saudis aren't so stubbornly ideological as to refuse to recognize a shared interest. But don't expect direct flights from Tel Aviv to Riyadh anytime soon.

Read it all.



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